The Goodness of Marak Milk
Young farmer carries on family legacy in dairy farm
Marak Farms owner Travis Marak | Photo by Jenna Mazzoccoli
It has been said that small production farms are fading away, but Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative (CVEC) member Travis Marak is surely a trailblazer. His passion for providing his community with fresh wholesome milk is so strong, he left his city job and returned to his roots to operate his family’s dairy farm in Meeker, Oklahoma.
“Running a dairy farm wasn’t necessarily what I planned on doing initially out of high school or college,” Marak says.
Marak did some traveling and worked as a journalist, but eventually wanted to come back and farm. As it turned out, none of his younger relatives were interested in taking on the family farm. Since his dad was at the end of his farming career, Marak decided to take over the family’s commercial farm and now runs it in conjunction with his dad, Steve Marak, a trustee of CVEC.
With only 100 cows and calves, Marak Farm is a relatively small commercial farm, but it takes a lot of work to operate because dairy cows are on a twice daily milking schedule.
“The animals don’t get a break,” Marak says of his cows who know the routine so well they line up at the gate to be milked a little before 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day. So when Marak needs a day off, other family members—his dad or a cousin—will take care of them.
“My former life was completely different than it is now,” Marak says. “If I want to go to Hawaii, I have to plan ahead.”
Since 1912, generations of Maraks have, in turn, been subsistence farmers, horse farmers, and eventually, dairy farmers. In 1972, the Maraks built a proper dairy barn with milking equipment and coolers. In 2014, Travis Marak took over the farm from his father and in 2017 he built and finished the bottling side of the production to enable bottling and selling of Marak’s Milk.
“The reward for me the way we do it, is keeping the farm alive,” Marak says. “Unless the younger generation decides they want to put in the work and effort to keep it alive, most farms usually go out of business. Part of the reward is keeping up the farm aspect of it. The other aspect is that we provide really good milk for people in our community.”
Marak Milk is low-temperature pasteurized, but not homogenized so the cream still comes to the top. Marak says he was blown away with the number of people who bought Marak Milk when they first started selling it because of its higher price point. He soon learned that people are willing to pay extra for a quality product. Anthony’s Foods, a locally owned and operated independent grocery store with locations in Meeker and Prague, is Marak Milk’s largest customer, but there are others, too.
Chelsey Simpson, manager and part owner of the Urban Agrarian, a locally sourced grocery store with locations in Oklahoma City and Edmond is also a retailer for Marak Milk. Although the Urban Agrarian isn’t serviced by an electric cooperative, Simpson says almost everything she sells is locally sourced by folks who are co-op members.
“People frequently tell us that Marak Milk is the best milk they’ve ever had. It’s creamier, it’s richer, and they love the flavor. It’s one of the best-selling items we have,” Simpson says. “People who prioritize knowing where their food comes from really appreciate having access to milk that is raised here in Oklahoma on a small farm.”
Simpson says she and Marak collaborated to found a chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition here in Oklahoma as can be seen on the group’s Facebook page, adding that she admires Marak.
“Out of all types of farming there’s really nothing more difficult than dairy farming,” Simpson says. “The fact that as a young person he decided to return to his family farm and bring it into the next generation is really admirable. It’s important work that he’s doing to support the food system as a whole.”
Peggy Diefendorf, co-owner of Cuppies and Joe, a small, family-owned coffee shop and bakery in Oklahoma City says they use between 48 and 64 gallons of Marak Milk per week in their lattes and baked goods.
“The milk is so delicious. We feel it takes our coffee drinks to the next level,” Diefendorf says. “It’s so rich. When you open it, you can see the cream at the top of the bottle. We could buy milk at the grocery store for $2 less per gallon, but we feel it is better to buy an excellent product and to help a local farmer.”
Simpson summed up her thoughts about Marak: “What’s exceptional about Travis is he’s a young farmer and there’s a shortage in this country. It represents a lot of hard work and sacrifice. He does his work because he believes in feeding people well.”